What's the secret to growing your staffing agency?
(UPDATED: 7/10/18) - Is providing great "value" enough? Think about it through the eyes of your prospective customers - people who haven't worked with your agency yet. They don't know your sales reps from the next agency's, and/or who have NO IDEA how valuable your staffing services actually are.
Will they think that your value proposition is fresh and exciting? ... your textbook, cookie-cutter response of being a (fill-in-the-blank)? And, most importantly, is it true? IS your agency really all that different from the rest?
What does it mean to be "different?"
Does it mean hiring people with different hairstyles? Bigger beards? Stronger personalities?... The best balance of aggressiveness, politeness, firm-handshakeness, independence, etc? Or is it something much deeper than all of those, and actually a core issue that we're dealing with?
Your sales team is the first impression, and therefore, it's their responsibility to articulate those differences (). But they're just step 1. If you want your services to truly stand out, not only do you have to hire a great team and have a great process in place, but YOU need to make the pitches coming from their mouths TRUE.
Your industry, although an infant in the grand scheme of things, is maturing, and it has been through a lot. It survived multiple economic calamities, soared to incredible heights, and bounced around in everything in between. Today, it's more crowded than ever with nimbler boutique shops and independent contractors, and your biggest competitors are really turning up the heat.
Whatever you think it means to be different, the same old cold-calling playbook ISN'T it. It's doing NOTHING to elevate your agency, and I think you know that. Nobody I talk to today ever brags about how great cold calling is working for them (any more than they brag about the effectiveness of their CRM).
I blame the internet. It empowered recruiting talent and early adopters of online technologies to grab market-share from their larger competitors by stripping away the bonds of corporate branding through elevating the importance of relationships.
Your clients now follow their favorite recruiters and AEs on LinkedIn, and when you fire somebody or they quit, they take that relationship with them.
I know the hope is that your commitment to top recruiters, a competitive fee structure, and customer satisfaction will keep most of your clients coming back regardless of where their favorite recruiter lands, but that's a lofty goal. Those relationships are powerful.
Think of all of those juicy accounts you've never been able to penetrate because of all of the starts and stops due to turnover... because they already have a go-to recruiter, and you can't keep somebody in the seat long enough to make a dent in it... and because your CRM's data is so spotty, that there's no easy way for one rep to pick up where another left off.
Each of these issues are potholes in your road to selling more services. And they completely pass the buck away from you, putting way too much responsibility on the shoulders of people who will likely turnover at some point or another.
You're in an industry where contingency-based fees are the norm, so you only eat when your sales teams are successful. I get it. It's EASY to put the onus of growth on their plates, because, well... that's what you hired them for.
But you create a vacuum when you do nothing to differentiate your agency from the top down. You're just another sales outfit getting swallowed in a sea of wannabes, saying one thing, but doing something else entirely.
That's a problem in my book.
1. Your Mission
I remember a great conversation I had with the owner of a highly reputable National staffing agency about what it means to separate the science and the religion of a company, and how important it is to the growth of any organization to do so.
The religion: This is your mission, vision, and values, or what makes your company YOUR company. Its core never changes (although the way you articulate it will), even in the face of pessimism or pressure to stand out. This is why you do what you do and why your company is the answer to your customer's biggest staffing dilemmas.
The Science: These are the components of your business that are often technical in nature, and if they don't change, the world passes you by. They include your applicant tracking systems, modes for connecting, marketing investments, and tools that support your sales strategies. They directly support the religion, but they are interchangeable, and should often be re-evaluated.
This particular agency had always been revered for its genuine commitment to the values that were present in its mission statement. In addition, they also hired great talent, and provided excellent ongoing training to sales reps and recruiters.
To top it off, they had delivery tools that proved beyond a doubt that they were committed to providing the very best service possible.
In all - their success came from being different (religiously AND scientifically).
So, today I'm not actually suggesting that you change who you are, but rather, to look at the experiences you are creating for your clients through the tools and strategies you are deploying, and asking yourself if you're being perceived the way you want to be.
Does the rest of the world see you as YOU do? Have you made it impossible for them not to?
2. Your Technology Stack:
In prior iterations of this article, I actually put Marketing (specifically, inbound lead generation) in this spot. But by prioritizing it over infrastructure, it becomes all to easy to overlook the importance of the latter. After all, who needs process when you're being inundated with inbound leads???
The answer: Anybody who wants to close more deals.
This isn't a "shit-in-shit-out" analogy. Inbound leads tend to be significantly more valuable than outbound leads. However, they aren't the "end-all, be-all" solution to reaching your growth objectives.
They're the first step in a two-step process.
Ask yourself this -
- What's the process for handling inbound leads, and how does it differ from how you treat leads from other sources?
- How do you hold sales accountable for their role in closing inbound leads?
- Where does your most important sales data live? Excel?
- How do you determine what's working and what's not?
- What do your clients see, and how does it make your agency different?
If those questions were hard to answer, it's because something is missing. Either it's a process issue or technology or both. My money is on both, because I don't think you can really separate the two in this day and age.
By nature, CRM's are the worst, because they don't address this issue head-on. They're cumbersome management tools forced into the hands of people who wither and die when they're not selling.
I don't care if it's Salesforce.com. I don't care if it's an industry leader like... Bullhorn...
They weren't built for sales, and they're still not. Modern CRM's are.
- Automating data entry
- Automating administrative tasks, such as scheduling
- Bridging sales and marketing activities into a single timeline
- Providing insights to sales when and where they need them - through automation and machine learning, combined with minimal manual input
- Innovative client-facing tools, like video
The goal is to improve sales performance. By removing the clutter from your sales teams' vision, you enable your most expensive employees to sell more.
3. Your Lead Sources
Where do you get the leads that you supply to sales? Are they warm, cold, hot, somewhere in between, or some new temperature we haven't discovered yet?
If you're not supplying your AEs with leads, are you then relying on them to source opportunities? Where are they finding leads? Public job boards like Careerbuilder.com or Indeed? ... the same exact place every other staffing agency is hunting?
I get heart murmurs just thinking about it... blech.
Let me run a concept by you...
There's a marketing methodology called "inbound" that does quite well for staffing services looking to boost sales. Here's an introductory guide to getting started with inbound marketing for staffing agencies for the newbies:
Instead of supplying your sales teams with the same exact purchased lists or Bullhorn reports as every. single. competitor. of yours... you can actually cut through the noise, and help them find you.
After slogging through 8 hours of cold calling and job board crashing 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, I'm willing to bet that your sales people will welcome a steady flow of leads where hiring managers are actively engaged with your brand... where job orders land before they publish their openings.
That kind of commitment is sure to garner loyalty from your top performers... who are always begging for more support. It's also sure to land more exclusive opportunities and more motivated buyers.
Bring leads to you. Be different.
By ratifying your mission, upgrading your technology stack, and diversifying your lead sources, you can truly elevate your staffing agency. You will be able to improve performance at every level, measure success, and hold people objectively accountable to reasonable and exciting outcomes.
Check out the video below to get an idea of how out it all works in real-time: